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DECATUR - Macon County residents might know about Richard Oglesby, three times elected Illinois governor and a close friend of Abraham Lincoln who was with the 16th president when he was assassinated.

But what about Isaac C. Pugh, Hermann Lieb, Gustavus Adolphus Smith or Jesse H. Moore?

All five men had something in common: they were Macon County residents who rose to the rank of general during the Civil War. Their promotions were all for "gallant and meritorious service."

Local historian Dayle Irwin knows Macon County's five Civil War generals about as well as anyone, having spent years tracking down information about, and photographs of, the five men. She hopes to meld her research into a book.

But why should anyone in this day and age be interested in five men who passed from daily life into history about a century ago?

"They were examples of patriotic and civic leadership that are sorely needed today," responded Robert Bruer, president of the Decatur Civil War Roundtable and a history teacher at Lutheran School Association.

"The Civil War was the greatest change ever in U.S. society," Bruer said.

In this presidential election year, those changes can be seen in the Electoral College map and candidates' "Southern strategies," Bruer said. There is still a regionalism that is left over from the Civil War, he said.

"What Reconstruction destroyed after the war, the Grand Army of the Republic, which was founded here in Decatur, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans brought about a healing at the turn of the century," Bruer said. "And don't forget: What happens in Macon County is based on the lives of people who built the community before us."

Irwin said local residents should know the contributions the five generals made not only to the Union cause but also to their neighbors and the community.

"Oglesby was the best known of the five with more written about him than any of the others," Irwin said.

When the Civil War erupted in April 1981, Oglesby volunteered his services to Illinois Gov. Richard Yates within three hours of Lincoln's call for troops, Irwin said. Oglesby was appointed colonel of the 8th Illinois Infantry Regiment, a post he held until April 1, 1862, when he was promoted to brigadier general in recognition of his service during the battle of Fort Donelson, Tenn., she said.

Oglesby received what was believed to be a mortal wound on Oct. 3, 1862, in fighting near Corinth, Miss., when he was shot beneath the left armpit and into his lung. He survived largely due to the care of Dr. Silas Trowbridge, a Macon County physician who was sent to attend him. While still recovering, Oglesby was promoted to major general on Nov. 11, 1862.

Isaac Pugh was born in Kentucky in 1805 and arrived in Macon County in 1828. Irwin noted his farm was north and west of what now is the intersection of Grand Avenue and Monroe Street.

In the Blackhawk War of 1832, Pugh became a second lieutenant. Irwin said sources on Pugh's life said he was discharged "with a bullet hole in his hat brim and a captain's commission."

Pugh was captain of Company C of the 4th Illinois Infantry in the Mexican War, helped to capture Veracruz and fought at Cerro Gordo where two of his 48 men were killed and 10 were wounded, Irwin said.

"He was always in the worst of the fighting," Irwin said. It was Company C that captured the Mexican general Santa Anna's carriage with his cork leg and $25,000 in silver, she said.

During his years in Decatur, Pugh served as a member of the commissioners court, master-in-chancery, county assessor, county clerk, county treasurer, member of the Illinois General Assembly, postmaster and Decatur mayor.

Irwin said at the start of the Civil War, Pugh enlisted for three months as captain of Company A, 8th Illinois Infantry but returned to Decatur when that enlistment expired and raised the 41st Infantry Regiment of which he was appointed colonel.

Fighting at the battle of Shiloh in April 1862, Pugh acquired bullet holes in the front and the cape of his coat but was not wounded, Irwin said. He fought in the battles of Corinth, Coldwater and Vicksburg in Mississippi, after which he was promoted to brigadier general, she said.

In honor of the citizen-soldier, Pugh School, an elementary school, was constructed in 1895 at 1255 N. Monroe St. on the southwest corner of Monroe and Grand. It was razed in August 1970 to provide more open space for the adjacent Roosevelt Middle School.

Of Macon County's five generals, Irwin is most excited about Hermann Lieb, who was born in 1826 in Switzerland and educated there and in France. At 19, he went into business in France and enlisted in the Mobile Guard, serving until 1848.

Lieb came to the United States in 1852 and settled in Decatur in 1856 where he began to study law, Irwin said.

In April 1861, Lieb enlisted in Company B of the 8th Illinois Infantry, serving the initial three-month enlistment, Irwin said. When he re-enlisted, he was chosen as captain and in October 1862 was promoted to major, she said.

Lieb was promoted to colonel in April 1863 when he was given command of the U.S. 5th Heavy Artillery (Colored).

"Being in charge of black troops meant Lieb was in great danger," Irwin said. "They were targeted by the Confederates who had a great fear of former slaves being armed. If captured, Lieb would not have been a prisoner of war but would have faced death. Besides that, brother Union officers were scornful of those serving with colored troops."

Lieb's unit acquitted itself with great valor despite suffering heavy losses in the battle of Milliken's Bend, a Union supply depot near Vicksburg, Miss., that was attacked by Confederate forces on June 7, 1863, Irwin said. Lieb was promoted to brigadier general by brevet in March 1865, she said.

As the war ended, Lieb expressed concern for what would happen to his men and their families once they were discharged from the Union Army, Irwin said. Efforts to get their service extended so they could be properly prepared to face civilian life failed, she said.

"That was when Lieb imported teachers from the north to instruct the men," Irwin said. "Such an action was unheard of at that time."

Gustavus A. Smith was born in 1806 in Philadelphia, Pa., and grew up learning the carriage and wagon making trade, Irwin said. He first came to Decatur in 1837, moved to Springfield for several years, returned to the East and then came back to Springfield where he married on his 23rd birthday, she said.

Smith moved to Decatur where he established a carriage manufacture and fathered seven children, Irwin said. His carriage works at Main and Church streets employed between 20 and 30 workers and is believed to be the only local manufacturer exporting goods prior to 1860, she said.

"Smith sent a lot of his carriage shipments to the South," Irwin said. "He lost a lot of money when the war broke out because he could not collect what was owed him."

Smith mustered into the Union Army as colonel of the 35th Illinois Infantry Regiment in May 1861, Irwin said. His men voted to go to St. Louis to join Union forces there, she said.

On March 7, 1862, the regiment fought at Elk Horn Tavern in Pea Ridge, Ark., where a horse was shot from under Smith about two hours into the battle, Irwin said. His sword reportedly was shot from his hand and a belt from his body, she said.

Smith was wounded in the left shoulder and was struck on the right side of his head by a piece of cannon shot that fractured his skull, Irwin said. A silver plate the size of a dollar coin was put in his head giving him the nickname "Old Tin Top" and his wounds did not fully heal until 1868, she said.

Though Smith was found no longer fit for field duty, he raised an independent brigade before being assigned to administrative duties. In September 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general. He was discharged from the army as a brevet brigadier general in January 1866.

Irwin said there is a footnote to Civil War history regarding Smith.

"When the 7th Illinois Cavalry was in the area of Courtland and Decatur, Ala., troopers found livery stables and many plantations had fine carriages marked on the rear axle "Gustavus A. Smith, Decatur, Ill.," Irwin said. "They decided the carriages were not paid for and confiscated them."

The final general, Jesse C. Moore," was a Methodist Episcopal minister who got the call to go to war and became known as "the fighting preacher," Irwin said.

Born in 1817, Moore was a school teacher, a principal of seminaries in Georgetown and Paris, and a president of Quincy College who had entered the ministry in 1846. In 1862, he was living in Decatur and giving patriotic addresses.

Irwin said Moore was commissioned as colonel of the 115th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers comprised of men recruited from eight Central Illinois counties. She said at the time it was better known as the 2nd Methodist Regiment.

The regiment was assigned to the Army of Kentucky. Irwin said at the Battle of Chickamauga, Moore led repeated assaults on Confederate positions on Snodgrass Hill, where his horse was killed under him. She said when the Union troops ran out of bullets, Moore ordered a bayonet charge that dislodged the enemy.

Moore was promoted to brigadier general in April 1865 after commanding the Iron Brigade of the 47th Army Corps during the battle of Nashville, Tenn., Irwin said. He served in Congress in 1870, she said.

President Garfield appointed Moore as U.S. consul in Callao, Peru, where he died July 11, 1883, Irwin said. His body was returned to Decatur and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Ron Ingram can be reached at ringram@herald-review.com or 421-7973.

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